The Q&A Archives: Tomatoes Dropping Flowers

Question: I've always had lots of beautiful tomatoes and have planted them in the same place and in the same way every year. This is the first year I started my plants from seed, using Burpee seeds and planting 4 one pound tomato plants and 4 two pound tomato plants.
I always plant in the same area, treating the soil with peat moss and store bought cow manure, 10-8-14 fertilizer, epsom salts, and dolomitic lime about 4 weeks before planting. This year I left out the cow manure and the peat moss.
I planted them in a trench, only leaving the top two leaves exposed. We had lots of rain after they were first planted and now are in drought conditions. I know I haven't watered deep enough at first but have recently hooked up a hose with holes and intertwined it around the plants and water slowly but for about 2 hours.
My plants are beautiful but the flowers are dropping off before tomatoes form. Can my problem be corrected or is it too late for me to enjoy my own tomatoes this year?

Answer: Blossom drop can be caused by a number of factors including high (or very cool) temperatures and perhaps most often, water stress. Regular watering should help and will help produce better quality tomatoes in any case. If the soil is very dry to begin with you may need to do some very deep watering at first -- dig down and see how far the water has reached -- and then after that you can do maintenance watering. These plants need as a rule of thumb an inch or so of water a week, more in hot or windy weather and when the plants are covered with tomatoes.

Finally, tomatoes do best in a rich organic soil that is evenly moist yet well drained. On the other hand, an excess of nitrogen can result in overly leafy plants (and an excess of notrogen early in the season may contribute to blossom drop). The best way to find out what to do with your soil is to run some basic soil tests and work from there; however, organic amendments such as peat moss and compost will always help the soil structure hold both air and water and this is good for the roots. The organic matter also breaks down over time and so needs to be replenished regularly, so you might consider adding some every year. Also, you should give strong consideration to rotating the location of your tomatoes simply to reduce the chances of pests or diseases carrying over from one year to the next.

If you are growing indeterminate tomatoes, I would expect you to still get a good crop. Determinate plants, however, are a bit less adaptable. Good luck with your tomatoes!

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